One Complaint against Tonja Brown

White Springs Vice Mayor Tonja Brown in collusion with Councilman and former Mayor Rhett Bullard, and former Councilman Willie Jefferson (brother-in-law to town employee Kenny Hutcherson) misused her public position when she violated state and federal laws, the White Springs Town Charter, and Personnel Policies, providing annual vacation, sick leave and compensation benefits to an employee who had been unable to report for work for at least two years.

Although Vice Mayor Tonja Brown allegedly is incapable of understanding State or Federal Laws, much less understanding the Town Charter and Personnel Policies of the Town of White Springs, as a public official she was complicit in agreeing to follow Councilman and former Mayor Rhett Bullard and then councilman Willie Jefferson’s decision to devise a scheme to provide continued compensation and leave benefits to employee Kenny Hutcherson, who was unable to report back to the Town of White Springs for work.  Brown , however, would have had to have realized that since she was required to remain silent by Bullard and Jefferson and to never bring up the circumstances at any public meeting about the compensation issue, that it had to be illegal and yet she agreed to allow such a scheme without bringing it to anyone’s attention

Vice Mayor Tonja Brown, in collusion with Councilman and former Mayor, Rhett Bullard, and former Councilman, Willie Jefferson, Sr. directed Town Manager Stacy Tebo and Town Clerk/Finance Director Pam Tomlinson to implement an embezzlement scheme by ignoring the Town’s Personnel policies and FL Statute 112.313 Restriction on employment of relatives by falsifying a relative of a councilman and employee documentation of attendance and leave to assure that weekly wire transfers were made to employee Kenneth Hutcherson disguised as employee compensation during 2016, 2017 and 2018.

As such, Town Manager Stacy Tebo and Town Clerk/Finance Director were instructed by Councilman and former Mayor Rhett Bullard with the assistance of former councilman and brother-in-law to the employee and Vice Mayor Tonja Brown to fraudulently place together documentation so that the embezzlement scheme was not discovered.  In furtherance of the scheme, on Willie Jefferson’s behalf, Bullard contacted his close friend and business ally Ken Daniels, the Town’s Auditor and asked that he overlook the issue during the Audit conducted in Spring 2018 which would have uncovered the malfeasance.

Tonja Brown used or attempted to use her official public position, which she obviously does not understand is a fiduciary position, to assist Bullard and Jefferson to provide special privilege, benefit or exemption which never could have been provided to others by law, by the Charter and Personnel policies but which she agreed to do as a favor and as benefit to Bullard and Jefferson, to protect and assist his critically ill brother-in-law financially at the detriment of the citizens.

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FL Statute 112.3135 Restriction on employment of relatives.

(d) “Relative,” for purposes of this section only, with respect to a public official, means an individual who is related to the public official as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, or half sister.

(2)(a) A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, or advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a position in the agency in which the official is serving or over which the official exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official. An individual may not be appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced in or to a position in an agency if such appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement has been advocated by a public official, serving in or exercising jurisdiction or control over the agency, who is a relative of the individual or if such appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement is made by a collegial body of which a relative of the individual is a member. However, this subsection shall not apply to appointments to boards other than those with land-planning or zoning responsibilities in those municipalities with less than 35,000 population. This subsection does not apply to persons serving in a volunteer capacity who provide emergency medical, firefighting, or police services. Such persons may receive, without losing their volunteer status, reimbursements for the costs of any training they get relating to the provision of volunteer emergency medical, firefighting, or police services and payment for any incidental expenses relating to those services that they provide.

 

(b) Mere approval of budgets shall not be sufficient to constitute “jurisdiction or control” for the purposes of this section.

 

FS 112.313 Standards of conduct for public officials, employees of agencies –MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION No public officer, employee of an agency, or local government attorney shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for himself, herself or others.  This section shall not be construed to conflict with s. 104.31.

 

FS 286.011 Public meetings and records, public inspection.

(1) ………….at which official acts are to be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times, and no resolution, rule, or formal action shall be considered binding except as taken or made at such meeting. The board or commission must provide reasonable notice of all such meetings.

(2) The minutes of a meeting of any such board or commission of any such state agency or authority shall be promptly recorded, and such records shall be open to public inspection……..

 

FS 812.014 Theft  (1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently: (a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property. (b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.

 

  • 18 U.S.C. Section 1343 Wire fraud Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. The elements of wire fraud under Section 1343 directly parallel those of the mail fraud statute, but require the use of an interstate telephone call or electronic communication made in furtherance of the scheme. United States v. Briscoe, 65 F.3d 576, 583 (7th Cir. 1995) (citing United States v. Ames Sintering Co., 927 F.2d 232, 234 (6th Cir. 1990) (per curiam)); United States v. Frey, 42 F.3d 795, 797 (3d Cir. 1994) (wire fraud is identical to mail fraud statute except that it speaks of communications transmitted by wire); see also, g., United States v. Profit, 49 F.3d 404, 406 n. 1 (8th Cir.) (the four essential elements of the crime of wire fraud are: (1) that the defendant voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money; (2) that the defendant did so with the intent to defraud; (3) that it was reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used; and (4) that interstate wire communications were in fact used) 

 

 

 

White Springs Town Charter  Section 6.09 Administration of the  Budget  (b) Payments and obligations:   2.  Violations.  Authorization of payment or incurring of an obligation in violation of this subsection or any payment so made is illegal.  Such actions shall be good cause for removal of any official who knowingly authorized or made payment or incurred such an obligation and that official shall be personally liable to the Town for any amount so paid.

  1. Out of Fiscal Period Payments, Contracts or leases providing for payment beyond the end of the fiscal year must be approved by motion, resolution or ordinance passed by the Town Council.

Section 2.06 Powers and Duties of the Mayor and Council – (b) Council.  1.  Vested Powers – Any powers of the Town shall be vested in the Council except as otherwise prohibited by law, including but not limited to those set forth in the Charter.

Section 2.07  Ordinances in General  (a) 2.  Financial PowersThe Council shall authorize the issuance of bonds, authorize borrowing, establish sinking funds, levy taxes for debt payments and undertake any necessary legal financing deemed appropriate for the welfare of the Town and to fix and regulate salaries of officials and employees of the Town and shall do such by procedures outlines in ordinances.

 

 

White Springs Personnel Manual

  1. 2. (Page -13-) Attendance and Leave Records – The Town Clerk’s Office shall maintain complete and accurate attendance and leave records.  The Department heads shall be responsible for forwarding all associated documentation of attendance and leave to the Town Clerk’s office.  Timesheets must reflect the actual time worked and the type of leave utilized to bring the total to the regular working hours, whether the leave be sick, annual, leave without pay, administrative leave, unauthorized leave, etc.  For example, if the employee worked 30 hours out of a 40 hour week, the remaining 10 hours must be documented and associated with a specific leave type.

It is expected that each employee with complete and sign their own timesheet or time card.  Under no circumstances shall an employee clock in or out, for another employee or make any notations or update on another employee’s timesheet.  Violation of this policy shall result in disciplinary action.”

 

E (Page – 27 -).Annual Leave –  Annual leave is provided for the purpose of rest, recreation, time with family, travel and other forms of renewal by getting away from the job.  It also enables employees to take care of other time consuming personal matters which may arise from time to time.  Annual leave is not intended as a substitute for regular on time attendance and will not be approved by supervisors to make up for habitual lateness.  Regular full-time employees shall be entitled to and accrue annual leave.

Credits for annual leave shall be allowed on the following basis:

  • Eight (8) hours per calendar month effective upon employment
  • Ten (10) hours per calendar month after completion of five (5) years service
  • Twelve (12) hours per calendar month after completion of ten (10) years service.
  • Annual leave may be accumulated as stated above, but may not exceed thirty (30) days or two hundred forty (240) hours unless approved in writing by the Town Manager.
  1. F. Sick Leave (Page -28-) All full time employees will accrue sick leave on the following basis:
  • Eight (8) hours per calendar month effective upon employment
  • Ten (10) hours per calendar month after completion of five (5) years service
  • Twelve (12) hours per calendar month after completion of ten (10) years service.

During the initial month of employment, sick leave accrual will be based upon one quarter of the accrual rate for 40 hours of work (two hours per week).

During the probation period sick leave may be accrued, but it is not available for use for the first 90 days of employment.  After that time, the supervisor or Department Head may approve sick leave at their discretion, taking into account the employee’s performance and attendance pattern thus far.

  1. 2 (Page – 28 -). Duration of Leave – Annual leave shall be limited to thirty (30 ) consecutive calendar days unless approved in advance by the Town Manager.
  2. 4. (Page – 28 -).Payment of Sick Leave upon Separation from the Town Employees who separate from the Town shall be paid for all accrued sick leave up to 240 hours. No payment will be made on sick leave accrued above 240 hours. Existing employees who have accrued in excess of 240 hours of sick leave, at the date of the adoption of this policy shall negotiate with the Town on a case by case basis to reach for an agreement considering possible buy-out of excess sick leave or other resolution as deemed appropriate by both parties and in the best interest of the Town of White Springs.

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Vice Mayor Tonja Brown was complicit in the illegal actions and wrongdoings of Councilman Willie Jefferson, Sr. and Councilman and former Mayor Rhett Bullard in their decisions to direct Town Manager Stacy Tebo and Town Clerk/Finance Director Pam Tomlinson in involving them in multiple acts of embezzlement and wire fraud during fiscal years 2016/2017 and 2017/2018.  Tebo and Tomlinson are now engaged in covering up the acts of embezzlement.

 Specifically, it is alleged that Tebo and Tomlinson made fraudulent weekly wire transfers to former Public Work’s Director, Kenny Hutcherson, disguised as employee compensation during 2016, 2017 and 2018.  Tebo and Tomlinson falsified leave reports and employee time sheets for Hutcherson, with fraudulent entries for Regular, Holiday, Annual Time, sick time and Comp time, which were used as the illegal basis for continuing wire transfers to Hutcherson.

The Town’s personnel policies provide annual vacation and sick leave benefits to employees, accrued vacation and sick leave vests with a maximum of 240 hours of each leave type.  The Town accrues unpaid vacation costs when earned by the employee and reports Compensated Absences due within one year and in more than one year, in the Statement of Net Position reported in the Town’s Annual Audit of Financial Statements.

Time sheets for employee Kenneth Hutcherson, who had not reported to work for nearly two years, are not signed by the employee.  Based on the Town’s annual vacation and sick leave benefits policies, it is impossible that Mr. Hutcherson (who officially retired in May 2018) could have accrued vacation and sick leave benefits to justify being paid full-time compensation for the nearly two years during which time he did not report for work.  Due to prior record keeping and supervision by Ms. Tebo, it is not known when Mr. Hutcherson actually stopped reporting to work.

During the year between the week of May 1, 2017 and the week of May 7, 2018 (for which time sheets have been provided by town staff), Hutcherson’s purported (unsigned) time sheets report compensation for 1,355.25 hours of sick time, 442.5 hours of annual time and 119.75 hours of comp time, far in excess of the maximum annual vacation (240 hours) and sick leave benefits (240 hours) provided employees by the Town’s personnel policies.  The time sheets also report that 46.5 hours of Regular time and 96 hours of Holiday time were used to fraudulently compensate Mr. Hutcherson.

 

Weekly payments to Mr. Hutcherson were made by direct deposit to his personal banking account.

 

Background:

IT IS ALLEGED THAT Mr. Hutcherson asked his brother-in-law, then Councilmember Willie Jefferson. Sr. to “fix it” so that he could continue to draw his full-time compensation, even though he was unable to report to work as the Town’s Public Works Director.  Councilmember Jefferson agreed, and then met with then Mayor Rhett Bullard, out of the sunshine, to devise a plan for the Town to continue to pay Mr. Hutcherson his full time compensation, rather than for Mr. Hutcherson to retire or seek long-term disability.

 

As such, Town Manager Stacy Tebo and Town Clerk/Finance Director were instructed by former councilman and brother-in-law to the employee Willie Jefferson with the assistance of Councilman and former Mayor Rhett Bullard and Vice Mayor Tonja Brown to fraudulently place together documentation so that the embezzlement scheme was not discovered.  In furtherance of the scheme, on Willie Jefferson’s behalf, Bullard contacted his close friend and business ally Ken Daniels, the Town’s Auditor and asked that he overlook the issue during the Audit conducted in Spring 2018 which would have uncovered the malfeasance.

As was their practice, it would have been Mayor Bullard’s role, on behalf of former Councilman Willie Jefferson, Sr.,  to VERBALLY inform Vice Mayor Brown, Town Manager Tebo and Town Clerk/Finance Director Tomlinson of the fraudulent agreement to continue Mr. Hutcherson on the Town payroll, on a full-time basis, in spite of his inability to report to work. And it is obvious that no one felt a fiduciary duty to the citizens of White Springs to stop or report the embezzlement.

Jefferson, Bullard and Brown could have placed the issue of compassionate income for Mr. Hutcherson on the council’s agenda for public input and discussion, but they chose not to do so.  Tebo and Tomlinson could have told Bullard, Brown and Jefferson, especially with the Florida State law governing nepotism that their compassionate income scheme for Hutcherson was illegal, but they chose not to do so, and they did in fact falsify documents, embezzle public funds and implement the wire transfers of embezzled funds.

Tebo and Tomlinson carried out the embezzlement scheme, directed by Bullard, Brown and Jefferson, in order to keep their charter positions secure.  Employees who question or simply identify any management issues related to accountability, integrity and efficiency of the town operations are fired or offered the opportunity to resign.

It is alleged that this scheme was hatched during Fiscal Year 2016/2017, and continued into Fiscal Year 2017/2018, until May, 2018, when Tebo, Tomlinson, Bullard, Jefferson and Brown became concerned that the other council members and members of the community were becoming aware that Mr. Hutcherson had been on vacation and sick leave for far greater than 480 hours, or 12 weeks, which is equivalent to three (3) months.  As a result of the growing community concern over Hutcherson’s extended sick leave, town officials informed Hutcherson that he would have to finally retire.

Bullard also contacted his close friend and business ally Ken Daniels, C.P.A., the Town’s Auditor, and asked that he not undertake any testing of financial data related to the issue during his Audit conducted during Spring 2018 which would have uncovered the malfeasance. 

The Gang of Three (Bullard, Brown and Jefferson) have always voted together and have continually covered their illicit behaviors out of the Sunshine, at the detriment of the citizens who are not provided transparency or the right to redress their grievances.

The Town of White Springs is in need of an objective investigation and audit of its elected officials as well as its financial and management operations to identify wrongdoing, remove officials (elected and employed) guilty of criminal misconduct and restore confidence in town government by creating a new governance / management approach that includes operational checks and balances.

 

Joe Griffin

 

 

 

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